Coffee Shops, Book Stores Serve As Offices For Self-Employed

By Jennifer Sorentrue
The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

Small business owner Vanessa Calas commutes from her Wellington home most days to work in downtown West Palm Beach.

But when Calas hops in her car, she isn’t headed to an office on Clematis Street. Instead, Calas, a marketing and public relations consultant for a start-up businesses, likes to run her company from a select group of downtown coffee shops and restaurants.

“I just love the people there, and I get really distracted at home,” Calas said. “I really like working in public places. The noise and everything, it forces you to really zone in. When you have that, you can get more done then if you are in a room all by yourself just kind of staring off in space.”

Calas is part of a growing group of entrepreneurs across the country who are working for themselves — running their own businesses without the help of other employees.

Between 2003 and 2013, the number of businesses without paid employees — or nonemployer businesses — grew by 4.4 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There were 23 million nonemployer businesses in the United States in 2013, up from 18.6 million in 2003, the Census Bureau found.

“Nonemployer businesses run the gamut from old-fashioned family-run corner stores to home-based bloggers,” said William Bostic Jr., the Census Bureau’s associate director for economic programs. “In some cases, the business may be the owner’s primary source of income, such as with real estate agents and physicians, but in other instances, they may operate the business as a side job, such as with babysitting and tutoring.”

Florida saw the largest jump in the number of people working for themselves, according to the Census Bureau. From 2012 to 2013, more than 63,000 nonemployer businesses were added in Florida, bringing the statewide total to roughly 1.8 million nonemployer establishments. Florida’s real estate, rental and leasing sector saw the most growth, the report said.

As the number of self-employed grows, coffee shops, book stores and similar public places are becoming increasingly popular working spots.

Joseph Russo, a West Palm Beach-based public affairs consultant, spent a month working from Subculture, a downtown coffee shop, before securing office space in a building on Clematis Street. The experience, he said, helped him network with other downtown business owners, elected officials and government workers.

“People are able to build professional relationships there,” Russo said. “Anybody who has a laptop has their own office right there. Why not work work around other people?”

The desire to work around other people is also driving demand for local “co-working” offices, like The Studio, which provides flexible workspace for businesses owners, artists, and barbers. People can rent space in the 7,000-square-foot facility by the day. Members can drop in and use desks or creative work spaces when needed, said Kindra Mogk, The Studio’s operations manager.

The facility has a cooler for florists and a set of barber chairs for hair stylists. It also boasts free wifi, coffee and sodas. There are ping pong tables and pool tables for those who need a break.
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“This provides for the entrepreneurs and the business professionals to kind of have a place here they feel like its their own,” Mogk said. “For some of our co-workers, they don’t want to continue to live in their bubble. They long for that water-cooler kind of comradery. It helps them to gain inspiration. It helps people to spawn new ideas.”

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